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Voucher Abuse and Charter School Hijacking in New Orleans

New Orleans. The fight to get anyone to hold the charter school explosion to any accountability at all anywhere in the country is mainly a struggle to get anyone’s attention, since for the most part they could be getting away with murder and no one would know given the huge decentralization and the total lack of any transparency, public governance, or public accountability. I’ve been riding this sag back horse in the five years since charter school proponents in league with anti-democratic, usually racist, anti-public school folks hijacked the New Orleans school system with the excuse of Katrina. Now more evidence of these disasters is becoming inescapable.

In the morning Times-Picayune test scores eviscerated the pilot school voucher program promoted by Governor Jindal (nota bene: Bobbie having a bad week after being eviscerated as a total, scheming hypocrite on the front page of the New York Times on Saturday for political double talk around the BP disaster, where it turns out the state is also not holding up its end of the job!) and implemented 2 years ago. On equivalent LEAP scores that are mandatory for 4th graders, the public schools kicked the proverbial in comparison to the same cohort attending mainly parochial schools in Orleans parish with the vouchers. Essentially in typical school fiasco, we are now paying to subsidize private and parochial educations with taxpayer dollars to do a worse job for our kids. The state superintendent apologist for the schools, Peter Pastornek, tried to equivocate and blame both the tests and the kids, but he’s never listened to criticism of the mandatory testing before….

Meanwhile during what Rebecca Skolnit called the “elite panic,” former Governor Blanco was conned into signing an executive order allowing the New Orleans system to be charterized for a 5-year period before they would have to be booted out or renewed. The Times-Pic is a little disingenuous in saying that the real options are a 3-year renewal, a longer renewal, and the boot or switch to another charter operator without every explaining how citizens might return these public properties to public accountability and public supervision by elected school board members. It is clear now that as the bell gets ready to ring on the 5 year timer this fall and winter, everyone is totally clueless about the process of renewing or handling anything to do with these schools. The Scott Cowen and Tulane cabal are already doing the heavy whine as they try to cover up and rationalize the results at Capdau which they began running ahead of many other charters. Other recent reports have also begun to trickle out indicating that test scores in many of the charters are weak, money has shown up missing in a couple of high dollar high profile scandals, pet principals have been raking in princely sums, and god knows what else.

For all of the rock throwing at the public school system in New Orleans and the elected school boards, these secret societies running the charters seem to be a thousand times worse. There really is no excuse for public property being treated as private playthings, especially when we are talking about our children’s education!

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Wade Rathke

Wade Rathke

Wade Rathke is the founder and long time Chief organizer of ACORN. He currently serves as the Chief Organizer of Community Organizations International / ACORN International and Local 100 United Labor Unions (formerly SEIU Local 100),

He has been a professional organizer for over thirty-five years. He has worked for and founded a series of organizations dedicated to winning social justice, workers rights, and a democracy where “the people shall rule”.

Wade is the author of Citizen Wealth: Winning the Campaign to Save Working Families.

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